If the hype is to be believed, Leonardo DiCaprio might finally win an Oscar for his performance in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's sprawling survival-revenge Western The Revenant. None of the accolades should surprise anyone who's been following the star since the beginning, however. We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. Angel Haze doesn’t just write music about survival — for the 23-year-old rapper and singer, music is survival. Back to the Woods comes as Haze’s first full-length work since their major label debut, 2013’s Dirty Gold.
If Dirty Gold tried to be everything to everyone with a slew of candy-coated hooks, a guest performance from Sia, and a smorgasboard of pop producers, then Back to the Woods hones in on what’s essential for Haze and only Haze.
The feel-good maxims of Dirty Gold crumble away on Woods, revealing the raw bone and sinew of an inner struggle too knotty to be washed over with platitudes. Haze has said that the only place they’ve ever felt at home was in the woods of Virginia after getting kicked out of their mother’s house, alone with nature, feeling their own wildness reverberate in the wilderness around them.

Guwop’s first record post-prison comes only about a month after his release and feels rushed. Chicago singer-songwriter shines with help from Chance the Rapper, Saba, and Donnie Trumpet. Over a nearly three decade career, DiCaprio has grown to become one of our most dedicated, intense actors.
On the 2012 mixtapes Reservation and Classick, Haze emerged as a ferocious young voice as they chronicled the trauma that made their music so urgent. In that interim, Haze has split with their label, come out as agender, and ended their most public relationship (with model Ireland Baldwin). They opted to work with just one producer this time, Tk Kayembe, who launches their raps down a dark and fevered wind tunnel throughout the record’s lean runtime. What happened to them will always have happened, the scars will always be there, but they can rise to meet it, to be viciously alive in response to all the death they’ve carried around inside them. It’s a brutal and lovely album that refines Reservation’s far-flung impulses into a targeted stream of consciousness.

The consistent production lets Haze get back to doing what they do best: expelling their truth and building new truths in the process.
The sense of pandering and obligation that hindered Dirty Gold has melted away, leaving only Haze’s muscle and artistry, their willingness to be laid bare in order to make it through another day. Abuse, abandonment, trauma, and poverty all skirt the edges of lots of hip-hop, but few rappers have engaged those demons so squarely and cathartically as Haze.
The best thing that suffering can do to you is soften your boundaries as an individual, to melt you into something bigger than yourself and return you to a wholeness you didn’t know you could feel.
That process is never complete, but on Back to the Woods, Angel Haze embraces the magic in the ongoing surrender.

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